1. little turtle legs
"Don't tap on the glass," John told Ronon, for the third time.
"It makes him snap," Ronon said. He tapped again, and sure enough, the turtle snapped its jaws against the glass wall of the aquarium.
"Yes, which means he's annoyed," John said, "which is why you shouldn't do it." Although he had to admit, watching McKay butt his little turtle head against the glass was kind of adorable.
"I thought I was allowed to annoy McKay."
"You are," John said, which was true; he'd asked permission specifically. "Just...wait till we can figure out if he's still sentient or not."
Teyla, who had been watching them with one of her less-decipherable smiles, said, "Do you think Dr. McKay may still be himself? Even in his current form?"
"Well, I doubt it, but..." John shrugged. Once a member of your team had been magically transformed into a turtle--a tiny baby turtle, even--it was difficult to rule anything out.
Teyla started to say something else, then paused. She leaned across the table, peering at the aquarium, where the turtle--McKay, John reminded himself--was crawling in and out of the water, dragging pebbles from the bottom of the tank to the dry area of the broad flat rock. His slow, ambling turtle-walk was oddly hypnotic, and they all watched in silence for several minutes.
"He seems to be building something," Teyla said finally. McKay had by now accumulated a sizable pile of pebbles, and was painstakingly arranging them, placing each one deliberately with his jaws and occasionally nudging it with his head before trundling back to pick up another.
"Huh," Ronon said.
"This is incredibly weird," John said, because it was.
McKay spent another few minutes arranging his pebbles. When he was finished, he pushed himself into the water with his little turtle legs and swam to the other end of the tank.
John leaned in closer and blinked. The pebbles were arranged into letters. The sentence was cramped but clear, and read: I HATE YOU ALL. "Huh," he said.
"Is that writing?" Ronon asked. He and Teyla were both squinting at it curiously.
"Oh," John said. "Yeah. It's writing. Apparently, he's still himself."
McKay surfaced and snapped at him, and John decided not to feed him any more crickets.
2. very clean animals
"A gidira!" Teyla said, sounding delighted. The chief smiled as she gathered the squat little creature into her arms and cooed at it.
"We have heard that Athosians are fond of gidira," he said.
"Apparently so," Ford said, except 'fond' maybe wasn't the right word for it. Teyla was 'fond' of the blue jello, and of space-fishing off the south pier, and most of the time, Ford was pretty sure, of him. Her reaction to the gidira was more along the lines of 'ecstatic,' or possibly 'gleeful', or 'kissing it all over its face and scratching its belly'.
"We keep them as pets," Teyla said. "They are very friendly, and they love children."
"Is that so?" McKay looked about as stunned as Ford felt. "How cozy." Teyla kissed the gidira right on its snout, and McKay made a face. "Oh, don't, that's disgusting."
"Gidira are very clean animals," Teyla said, and kissed it again.
"No, cats are very clean animals. That thing looks like it's been rolling around in the mud. Maybe in a dung heap."
"It looks like a hippo," Ford said. "A little baby hippo."
"Yes, and we all know what paragons of cleanliness they are--will you stop that!" McKay sounded genuinely horrified, and Ford had to agree that the sight of Teyla snuggling a miniature hippo to her chest was just plain disconcerting. "Do you have any idea what kind of freakish alien germs you could be picking up? The second we get back I'm telling Elizabeth to put you under quarantine."
"Yeah, we should be getting back," Ford said meaningfully, because the chief was starting to look unhappy with all the squawking, and Ford didn't feel any particular need to practice his cross-cultural diplomacy skills today. Although he might be able to trade McKay for another bag of grain and tell Dr. Weir it was an accident.
Teyla shot him a quick smile, one of their are-you-sure-we-can't-leave-him-here? smiles, and tried to hand the gidira back. The chief looked at her blankly, then at Ford and back at Teyla and the space-hippo. "You are leaving?" he said.
"Yes," said Ford. "Unless you're not done talking with the major?" They'd had him in that tent for at least an hour now, and some big guys with interesting facial tattoos had already delivered the grain they'd come to trade for. Maybe they were trying to marry the major to a local girl again. The last time that happened, it had taken Sheppard three hours to turn her down without starting a war. Ford didn't hear any crying this time, though.
"Done talking?" The chief looked even more confused. Any second now the big tattooed guys would show up again with spears.
"Yes," McKay said, "done talking? As in, finished, as in, he can come out of the tent now so we can go home?"
"Oh!" The chief smiled. "Yes, we are done, you can take him."
They waited. The chief didn't move.
"So we'll go get him, then," Ford said, and started towards the tent. The chief put a hand on his arm to stop him.
"No, no, here," he said, and patted the gidira on the snout.
Teyla gave a strangled cough and dropped it abruptly. It hit the ground with an indignant squeal, and McKay said,
Ford stared at the gidira, and at the chief, and at the gidira again. "You turned him into a hippo?"
"I told you it was unsanitary," McKay said to Teyla, who was crossing her arms over her chest and looking violated. The gidira squealed again, and Ford could swear it sounded smug.
"We thought you would appreciate it," the chief said. He was starting to look worried.
"It was a very nice thought," Teyla said, "but we prefer the major in his human form." Somehow things like that always sounded completely normal when she said them.
"Oh, well, of course!" The chief beamed at them, clearly relieved. Interplanetary diplomacy was tricky from all sides, Ford supposed. "He will return to normal within three days. Four at most."
"Oh," Ford said, and he couldn't figure out how to argue with that. "Okay then. Well. Thanks for the grain."
"We are honored to trade with you." The chief bowed. "Please, return whenever you are in need."
"Oh, absolutely," McKay said. "Maybe next time you can turn Lieutenant Ford into a rhinoceros." He hoisted up the gidira and tucked it under his arm. "And you, shut up, Teyla doesn't want to carry you, not after you took advantage of her like that."
Teyla bowed back quickly and led them away, and really, Ford thought as he dialed the gate, it wasn't that he wasn't used to McKay and the major arguing nonstop. It was just that Sheppard's half of the quarreling usually didn't involve biting McKay's fingers until McKay threw him at Teyla's head.
3. kitten specialist
"Are you sure it's a kitten?" John said.
"Yes," Rodney said, "it is definitely a kitten. Haven't we been over this?"
"I'm just saying, it's awfully large. Looks more like a cat."
"Well, strictly speaking, it's a kitten that's been experimented on with Wraith enzymes," Rodney said. "It's not like the device turned him normal."
"No," John said, nodding, "no, of course not."
"Anyway, Broussard says the bone structure is definitely immature, and she's a xenobiologist, she has books about these things."
"Books about kittens?" John scratched under Ronon's chin.
"Yes, Colonel. I brought a kitten specialist to Atlantis for just such an occasion as this." Rodney rolled his eyes. "And would you quit petting him, that's just...disturbing."
"He likes it," John said, stroking Ronon from ears to tail-tip, grinning when he started to purr.
"Yes," Rodney said, "that would be the disturbing part."
"I thought you liked cats."
"I had my cat neutered," Rodney said. Ronon flattened his ears and hissed. "Oh, don't worry, like Sheppard would let me anywhere near your testicles."
"Okay, I think that's enough castration talk for several lifetimes," John said, narrowing his eyes.
"Just remember," Rodney said, "you're cleaning it up when he starts spraying."
4. random pandafication
"She what?" Elizabeth said again.
"Turned into a panda," John said, and no, it didn't make any more sense the second time. "Apparently it's some sort of dormant defense mechanism that Athosians used to have, and this planet had that weird compound in the air, and, uh." He waved at the tiny cub curled up on Elizabeth's desk. It--she--had settled under the lamp and fallen asleep almost as soon as Ronon had reluctantly set her down.
"Are you trying to tell me that the Athosians' ancestors used to turn into baby pandas to defend themselves against the Wraith?"
"Since the only other option is that her atoms defied impossibly vast odds and rearranged themselves spontaneously into the form of a baby panda," Rodney said, "I'm favoring the defense mechanism explanation."
Ronon leaned over her desk and scooped Teyla up, depositing her back in his shirt pocket. Elizabeth raised her eyebrows and he shrugged. "She looked cold."
"Right," Elizabeth said. "Well." She paused, waiting for a suggestion from John, or even, God help her, Rodney, but nobody said a word. Apparently random pandafication of major personnel was strictly her department. "All right," she said finally. "Ronon, you're in charge of caring for her. Rodney, go get someone from the xenobio team, find out what she needs to eat, then send someone from biochem back to the planet to find out more about that compound."
Ronon nodded and disappeared.
"Does anyone else find it disturbing that his crush on Teyla apparently transcends species?" Rodney said. John elbowed him. "Ow! Hey! You were the one who pointed it out to me, you ass."
"Anything you need me to do, Elizabeth?" John asked, ignoring Rodney's mutinous grumbling.
She started to tell him no--the colonel's skills were many, varied, and occasionally bizarre, but the current situation didn't seem to call for any of them--and then thought better of it. "Yes," she said, "yes, there is," and permitted herself one tiny smile. "Assuming the, ah, mechanism doesn't wear off before anyone notices...you get to explain it to the Athosians."
"You might want to go with the improbable quantum anomaly story," Rodney said, smirking. "It's less likely to make them cranky."
5. opposable thumbs
"I don't see what the problem is," Rodney said.
"Aside from the fact that you let a monkey play around with one of the puddlejumpers?" John said. "No, no problem at all, clearly."
The monkey under discussion wriggled angrily against his shirt, tugging at John's fingers with its prehensile tail. Like the city wasn't chaotic enough with nearly a third of the population devolved by that stupid device, and then to walk into the jumper bay and see Rodney crouched next to a lemur, watching it play with the exposed wiring--John was tempted to just hand the whole mess over to Elizabeth to deal with, and she was currently a wombat.
"He's obviously still himself, and he still has opposable thumbs. There's no reason to keep him locked up--against his will, I might add."
"Rodney," John said, "he's a lemur. He doesn't have a will."
"You don't still believe that, do you?" Rodney said. "Everyone who's changed, they've all stayed the same. Their personalities, their interests--" He paused, wincing. "All right, most of their interests, and can I just say that I devoutly hope neither of them remembers this?"
John knew exactly what he was referring to. He'd been there in the room when they'd finally captured Miko and Kavanagh, both changed into housecats, and both violently reluctant to be separated. Simpson had taken custody of Miko and done horrible things with a Q-tip--"the only way she'll stop yowling," she'd said with a grimace, to which Rodney had replied, "Oh my god, I can't know that."
"I hope I don't remember this," John said, and then, "but, yeah, okay, people are acting like themselves, but that doesn't mean they're still as reliable, or intelligent, or--ow, fuck!" The lemur's teeth sank into his palm and he instinctively flung it away. "He bit me!"
Rodney caught him neatly and set him down next to the jumper's control panel. "You insulted his intelligence. What did you expect?"
"I insulted--he's a lemur! Am I the only one who's noticed this?"
"He's Zelenka," Rodney said, "he fights dirty. Just try wrestling him for the last coffee packet. It'll make that look like a love bite." The lemur--Zelenka, all right, John gave up--slapped its tail against the ground in agreement.
"Just...keep an eye on him," John said. "Make sure he doesn't breakanything, or...fling anything."
"He'll be fine," Rodney said, and he sounded distracted already, watching intently as Zelenka rearranged god knew what. "He's actually better at the detailed parts now, with the tiny paws. Excellent fine motor control."
"Right," John said. "Of course. I'm just going to go check on Elizabeth." He hurried out of the jumper as Zelenka began to chitter at a frantic pitch, and Rodney said,
"No, no, you need to boost the current in reverse, do you want to blow us all to pieces?"
Fine motor control, John repeated to himself, and hoped wombats didn't go into heat.
6. party games for rodents
John didn't know what had just happened, which was a feeling he found himself far too familiar with today. He'd just been relaxing in the cage one of the biologists had dug up, watching Rodney and Ronon eat their weight in pellets, and then Teyla had wriggled sleekly out of the makeshift bed, strands of cottonwool stuck to her ears, and something went *twitch* in his head. Next thing he knew, he was on his back, legs flailing, and Teyla was biting him hard on his side.
"Ow! Cut that out, what the fuck?" He rolled violently from side to side, trying to dislodge her. Over by the pellets, Ronon gave a little mouse chuckle.
"Oh, crap," Rodney said. "She's rabid."
"She's not rabid," John said, kicking her loose at last. "She's...Teyla, what the hell?"
He wasn't sure what 'sheepish' looked like on a mouse, but Teyla's wrinkled pink snout seemed to come close. "I am sorry, Colonel. I lost control of myself."
"Yeah, I noticed," John said, curling himself around his wounded side. "The teeth part of yourself, especially."
Teyla flicked her tail in an obvious sign of distress. "I do not know what happened to me. I saw you and felt a sudden strong urge to attack."
"Seriously, rabid," Rodney said. "She'll be foaming at the mouth before you know it."
"Rabies doesn't even exist in this galaxy," John said, and Rodney snapped back,
"Well maybe we brought it here," while Teyla looked more and more upset. This whole being-a-mouse thing seemed to really be stressing her out.
"Don't worry about it," he said, pushing his face gently against hers. "Just some of those fierce mouse instincts bleeding through. We can give Rodney a cheese wedge next, it'll be hours of fun."
"Oh, yes, party games for rodents," Rodney said--and wow, even confined to squeaking, the sarcasm came through loud and clear. "I know, how about we all watch the colonel bell a cat?"
"Maybe later," John said. "I think I've had enough carnage for one afternoon."
"Carnage?" Ronon snorted. It sounded like nothing mice were ever supposed to do. "She didn't even draw blood."
"How would you know?" He peered closer at the bite. It still hurt, but Ronon was right, she hadn't broken the skin.
"I don't smell any," Ronon said.
Rodney's ears twitched. "You can smell blood now?"
"Yeah. Pretty sure you can too."
"Oh god, I hate this galaxy so much," Rodney said, and curled up in a tiny white ball.
7. two-color dog happiness
By Atlantis standards, John figured, his day was actually going fairly well. He'd been turned into a puppy trying to turn on McKay's latest Ancient toy, which was definitely a negative development, but on the upside, he could lick himself in places he'd spent his whole adolescence spraining his neck to reach.
"Will you give it a rest? If you keep going at it like that it's going to fall off before we can change you back." McKay glared down at him from the armchair he was cruelly refusing to share with John. The intense desire to sit on McKay's lap was another new development, and John figured he'd probably be more worried about it if he didn't seem to be incapable of worrying about anything at the moment. Ancient puppies were apparently very relaxed. He felt curiously unconcerned about how he was going to get back to being human--there was only an absentminded, dog-like faith that McKay would figure it out at some point, and in the meanwhile, there were extra vertebra to be enjoyed.
John barked reproachfully at McKay and his empty lap and went back to licking himself. He had a vague idea that he wouldn't normally do this sort of thing in front of an audience, and especially not in front of this audience, but it was as distant and unimportant as the worry over his transformation.
There was a flurry of annoyed grumbling above him, and then John felt McKay's big hands settle around his middle and lift him up. "Fine," McKay said, "if it'll put a stop to the disturbing puppy sex show, fine, whatever you want," and John was already snuggling down, surrounding himself with McKay's scent. He smelled just like his hands felt, petting John with long firm strokes, making him shiver and yip and want to stay here, held and warm, breathing McKay, two-color dog happiness forever.
Extra Special Bonus Sequel
7a. extreme personal grooming
"Hey," John said when Rodney opened the door. "So, that was me in there, the whole time. If you were wondering."
"Ah. Well. Yes, I had, uh..." They stared at each other. "Well, this is awkward."
"I mean, I wasn't entirely myself," John said, "what with the extreme personal grooming and all--"
"I'd assumed that wasn't a habit of yours, yes--"
"--but mostly, it was just...can I come in?"
The last time John had been here, he'd bounded through the door with Rodney, Elizabeth, and two Marines chasing after the barking, and by the time Rodney had made it, panting, to the room, John was already sprawled across the wreckage of his desk, trying to wedge his nose into the space between the desk and the wall.
He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "It still smells like dog in here."
"You shed on my pillow," Rodney said. The cat always used to sleep at the foot of the bed. He hadn't known, when he gave in from sheer exhaustion and let John hop up on the bed, how it would be to fall asleep nestled against his quick-hopping heartbeat. How easy it would be, when he was half-asleep, to let himself think about how long it had been since he shared pillows with anything two-legged.
Then he'd woken up with John's gangly puppy legs kicking him in the face and panicked and thrown him off the bed before he completely knew what he was doing. That was when he discovered how surreally stupid it sounded to be yelling 'Colonel' at a puppy, and given up and went with 'John,' and now he couldn't get himself to switch back.
"So, you smell really good to dogs," John said, after a few seconds of silence. "In case you ever wondered."
Rodney stared at him. "No," he said, "no, I hadn't, and now I'll never have to, so thank you for that."
John nodded, and kept shifting back and forth, eyes flickering around the room. He looked like he'd put his skin on wrong. Maybe it was easier to transform into something than to come back, somehow. Then his eyes fixed on Rodney and he said, "Look, just--blame this on the dog, alright," and he stepped forward, held onto Rodney's arms and buried his face in Rodney's neck and breathed in deep.